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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Traditional Hot Cross Buns - Easter is almost here = Long weekend is not far away

Easter is just around the corner. It is the longest weekend in the year and we even have longer weekend this year in Australia, with Easter falls on the Anzac Day, we end up with five-day long weekend. I am so looking forwards to our short-break and getaway :)

One of Easter food symbol is Hot Cross Bun, which I believe originated from England. I love Hot Cross Buns, or spice fruit bread in general. I can eat them all-year round, Easter or not. Do you know that back in Elizabeth I day, Hot Cross Bun was only allowed to be sold at Easter and Christmas (source: Wikipedia)? How sad was it? Well, nowadays, shops stock them year-round.

I thought that my Hot Cross buns wouldn’t have eventuated. My convection oven was not working properly (it wasn’t heating up beyond 70c). It felt like my world was falling apart. Without the convection oven, I am not sure how the macarons are going to copeL

The thing was I didn’t know that the oven didn’t heat up until I was about to put the bread in. I did my usual thing; spraying the oven wall before loading the breads and saw no steam, water drops just stay on the oven wall. My inner persistent self pushed me to load the buns in anyway (I still don’t understand why I listened to that inner stubborn me). As I would have guessed, the bun showed no signs of activity…they just sit still. Thank to my obsession with baking, I usually sit and watch how the baked-goods develops in the oven. I am really hopeless like that. I would just sit in front of the oven, sit and stare at them on every angles. So, I could feel that something wasn’t right and pulled the buns out of the oven after few (or five) minutes, and retarded them in the fridge while sorting out my oven issues.

Well, my oven doesn’t have a conventional oven option. I baked the buns the next day, using combination of grill and fan-assisted grill, with some improvisation (I was actually hoping that the oven would be okay the next day as well, but it wasn’t). See, grilling bread would make bread brown before it is cooked. So, here goes improvisation…bake without foil for 5 minutes, then cover the tray with foil for 5 mins, then turn the tray upside-down and bake for another 10 minutes. These poor buns have been through a lot of trauma. It was a pleasant surprise that the buns turned out edible.

In fact, they tasted lovely. The spices’ aroma was great when the bun were being baked. I also love mixed peels in the bun. It added extra bitterness and citrusy note to balance the flavour. The crumbs showed some signs of trauma from multiple actions of warm bake, retardation, and confused baking modes, but they were lovely nonetheless.

However,  I will have to redeem myself baking these buns again with a proper dough handling and baking mode (actually they're excuses, I love these buns and will make them again before Easter).

I adapted the recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Traditional Hot Cross Bun recipe from Bread: a baker’s book of techniques and recipes. I changed the recipe somewhat by including sourdough starter (about 15% of total weight), replace 10% of bread flour with whole wheat flour, replace currants with raisins, and using mixed peel instead of chopped citrus zest. I also changed the crossing paste slightly and use my homemade apricot jam mixed with water as glaze. This is a great recipe producing great tasting buns.

Traditional Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Makes 12 buns

Overall Formula
Baker’s Percentage
Bread Flour
337 g
Whole Wheat Flour
40 g
120 g
70 g
57 g
66 g
3 g
3 g
60 g
Mixed peel
37 g
114 g
7 g
Total Weight
914 g


Bread flour 37 g
Milk 120 g
Sugar 9 g
Yeast 7 g, instant dry (2 ¼ tsp)

Final dough

Mature sourdough starter 140 g (at 100% hydration, water:flour, 1:1)
Bread flour 230 g
Whole wheat flour 40 g
Butter, soft 57 g
Egg 1 egg
Sugar 57 g
Salt 3 g (1/2 teaspoon)
All spice, ground 3 g (1/2 tablespoon)
Sponge 173 g
Sultana or raisins 114 g
Mixed peel 37 g

Crossing paste

All-purpose flour 65 g
Milk 65 g
Butter, melted 10 g
Sugar 35 g
Vanilla 1 teaspoon
Lemon zest, grated ½ lemon


Apricot jam 2 tablespoons
Water 2 tablespoons


Sponge: Mix yeast into the milk, add flour and sugar and mix until thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap or plastic bag and leave at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. The sponge will grow about 3-4 times of its original height. 

Mixing: Mix soft butter and  bread & whole wheat flours together until roughly combined. Add eggs, sugar, salt and all spices and mix them altogether. Then, add the sponge and starter and mix until the dough ball is formed.

Knead until medium gluten development is achieved (that the dough can be gently stretched into a thin sheet without tearing). It would take approximately 6 minutes on second speed if using mixer.

Add the currants and mixed peels and mix until these are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Bulk fermentation: 1 hour – 1.5 hour, with a light fold after 30 minutes.

Dividing and shaping: Divide the dough into 75-g pieces. Shape the pieces into rolls and place them inside baking tin. The dough should line in an even configuration. Leave spaces between each buns as the buns will expand during proofing and baking. Cover the tin of buns with a plastic bag to prevent surface drying out.

Final fermentation: About 1 hours.

Crossing paste: Make the crossing paste while the buns proof. Mix melted butter with sugar. Add milk, vanilla, grated lemon zest and flour. Mix until it is well combined and become a smooth paste. Fit a piping bag with a 0.5-cm round tip. Pipe crosses on to the proof buns, starting from left to right for each row, and turn the tin 90 degree to continue with other direction for the cross.

Glaze: Mix apricot jam and water together and strain to a bowl. Alternatively, you can also use simple sugar syrup as a glaze (mixing one part water and one part sugar in a saucepan, and boil  and simmer for 5 minutes)

Baking: Bake the buns at 220c for 14 to 16 minutes. Brush hot bun with the glaze.

Submitting this post to YeastSpotting.


  1. Kinda confused about the mature starter. I am guessing that you want to add 125 g mature starter (140 - 15 for future use).

  2. Thank you Dick for the proof-reading, that's what I need, a proof-reader:)

    The starter was a double-up. I've now deledted that line.

    Thanks, Sue